Monthly Archives: April 2008

Do Unto Others

Sports have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in all of us. Just ask any local umpire if he or she wants to umpire a slow pitch church league game. There is nothing like an enraged Baptist preacher hyped up on adrenalin that will put the fear of the Almighty in you.

Rarely does Division II women’s softball get the headlines in the dog-eat-dog world of sports, especially a battle between longtime basement dwellers like Western Oregon and Central Washington. These two programs for years had historically spent the playoff studying for exams. However this year they found themselves in a winner take all battle to make the playoffs. Whoever emerged victorious after this double header on a beautiful April afternoon in Ellensburg would get the opportunity to make the NCAA playoffs for the first time in a long time.

Central Washington won the first game 8-1, and was now in position to claim their playoff berth. The score was tied 0-0 in the bottom of the second, when rarely used senior centerfielder Sara Tucholsky stepped to the plate to the heckling of the small rambunctious crowd. The first pitch as a strike. On the second pitch little 5’2 Tucholsky connected with all her might and the ball went sailing toward the centerfield fence. To her amazement and the disbelief of the hometown fans the ball cleared the fence for her first career home run. In her excitement, Tucholsky missed first base and abruptly stopped to return to the bag. Something popped in her knee and she fell to the dirt writhing in pain. While the fans watched the two lead runners cross the plate, first base coach Shannon Prochaska came to Tucholsky’s side. She knew not to touch her because if she did the home run would be cancelled, and Sara would be out. She discussed the dilemma with the umpire, and quickly reviewed her options. If Sara could crawl back to first base, and a pinch runner could enter the game, and she would be credited with powerful two-run single.

This appeared under the circumstances to be the logical heart-breaking choice for Sara that is until a third voice entered the conversation. Central Washington senior first baseman Mallory Holtman interrupted the conversation saying, “Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?” After a brief moment of scratching their heads, and realizing there were no rules against an opponent carrying a runner around the bases the idea was hatched and sports history was made. Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace picked up Sara and carried her back to first so she could gingerly touch the bag, and they made their way around the bases giggling all the way until they reach home plate and Tucholsky recorded her first and only home run in her career.

What possesses an opponent to go to such measures for another? “Honestly, it’s one of those things that I hope anyone would do it for me, “said Holtman. “She hit the ball over her fence. She’s a senior; it’s her last year…I don’t know, it just one of those things I guess that maybe because compared to everyone on the field at the time, I had been playing longer and knew we could touch her, it was my idea first. But I think anyone who knew that we could touch her would have offered to do it, just because it is the right thing to do. She was obviously in agony.”

I don’t know if anyone would do this, but I am proud for her and her teammates that she did. This act of kindness and compassion eventually led to Central Washington’s defeat, but for once both teams walked or “limped” away as winners.

Jesus had a point when He challenged His followers with these words:

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matt 7:12 (NIV)

Life does not have to be nearly as complicated and gray as we make it. This principle applies to every situation we face in life from the office to the baseball diamond. Can you imagine how much the world would change if we simply put into practice this “golden rule”?

The next time you have a chance to make history do it, especially when it is as simple as giving someone a lift home!

Note if you want to read the full story from ESPN below is the address:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?columnist=hays_graham&id=3372631&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab4pos1

4 Comments

Filed under Devotion

New Front Door

New Front Door

There is an old joke about three new ministers who moved into a small town. When the Methodist pastor moved into town he asked “Where are all the Methodists?” Likewise when the Presbyterian minister moved into town he asked “Where are all the Presbyterians?”When the Baptist minister moved into town he asked, “Where are all the people?” The point of this joke was simply Baptists go after all the people. It seems this message no longer holds true for most of our churches.

Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research, recently report on his blog (http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/edstetzer/2008/04/new_evangelism_research.html ) his findings on the effectiveness of the evangelism of Southern Baptist churches. It should be noted that the baptism records of the SBC have declined over the past several years.

Stetzer pointed out that if a local church’s strategy for reaching its community was dependent upon reaching out to those who visit their church, then more than likely they will primary grow with “church switchers” rather than new followers of Jesus.

To stress his point Stetzer wrote:

“Too often the way our churches measure success revolves around what happens at church when we ought to be focusing on what happens in building intentional relationships with those far from Christ,” McConnell said. “Some of the activities on our church calendars may actually be preventing effective evangelism by keeping believers away from the people they need to reach.”

“Believers must resolve to step into their world to share the Good News with them,” Stetzer explained. “If we are waiting for them to someday walk into our churches, that someday may never come.

“We have tried that approach for decades – many church buildings/services are looking great. They have new looks, new music and new strategies,” he added. “We have gone to great length to fix up the barn, but the wheat is still not harvesting itself. I believe we must move from attractional ‘come and see’ ministry to incarnational ‘go and tell’ and join Jesus in the harvest fields all around us.”

As I have reflected on his observations, it was a reality check for me. We have an ongoing FAITH ministry that follows up on our prospects every Monday evening. Over the past five years on prospect visits on those who visited our church I have only visited two families that were seeking a personal relationship with Jesus. As a pastor-leader I too need to learn to move outside of my comfort zone and find ways to engage my community and begin to build intentional relationships with those who need the Lord.

I am also convicted as a leader of a large local church that I need to begin to help our church begin to find ways to penetrate our community with the good news. One reason we need to reach out is the fact that our church facilities are very imposing and confusing to be honest. I often joke that our assimilation plan is that once you get in our buildings you can never find your way out. All kidding aside, the vast majority of our small town is highly unlikely to darken the doors of our church. I pray the Lord will help us to create a “new front door” into the Kingdom. I suspect it will start by our member opening the “front doors” of their homes and hearts to their friends, and neighbors. In addition, we will also have to be more proactive about knocking on their “front doors” and looking for places where God is at work in the hearts of people. “Go and Tell” was the DNA of our early Baptist forefathers, and it is high time we get back to the basics again.

3 Comments

Filed under Devotion

Sad News

Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research, announced the bad news that the Southern Baptist Convention is “officially” in decline. You can find his observations at http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/edstetzer/2008/04/new_evangelism_research.html.

For those close to the action this should not come as shocking news. Over the past 25 years our convention has been rocked with strife and controversy as vying factions struggled for control. Even after the “Conservative resurgence” accomplished its mission and planted the banner of the Bible securely in place, conservative turned on conservative and new lines of orthodoxy have been traced in the shifting sands. For all our good intentions on both sides, we have created a public relations nightmare. Instead of being known for proclaiming the good news and meeting the needs of the poor we are known for what we are against and too often know as the “battling Baptists” who cannot seem to get along.

Being people of the book, we should have known better. In our fighting over the Word of God we seemed to forget to live out the Word of God in our day to day lives. Jesus made it crystal clear to His disciples that the mark of following Jesus was not theological orthodoxy but rather love when He said:

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Let’s face it you can fake theology by learning by rote what to say, but rarely can one fake genuine unconditional love for those closest to him or her.

From Stetzer’s informed perspective the SBC lost its way on three fronts he wrote:

First, we have to deal with the continued loss of SBC leaders. As we have recently reported in Facts & Trends, we have witnessed a serious (and increasing) depopulation of young leaders at our convention. Also, ethnic leadership remains absent after decades of ethnic change in America. Vacant seats still exist at the SBC table for the ethnic and generational diversity that matches the America we are attempting to reach.

A second issue is the infighting which defines so much of the SBC—its meetings, its churches, and its blogs. It is public knowledge that we do not always settle our differences amicably.

The third, and most important, issue is our loss of focus on the Gospel…The Conservative Resurgence failed to produce a Great Commission Resurgence. It restored our denomination’s value of Scripture but application is often absent, at least in the area of evangelism.

I hope and pray we will wake up and face the reality of our plight. We cannot no longer do business as usual and expect to be a useful tool in the hand of our Master. Jesus is calling us to wake up and face the truth about what we are doing to ourselves and more importantly to those who need to know Jesus.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus confronted the “lukewarm” church of Laodicea with the fact they were living in denial. In closing the Lord said:

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Rev 3:20 (NIV)

Through the years this verse has been quoted by evangelist pleading with the lost to open the doors of their hearts to Jesus, but the harsh reality is that in this text Jesus is not knocking on the door a lost man or woman. Jesus is knocking on the door of the church asking for His people to let Him back in. Do you hear the knocking? Maybe it’s time to let the Lord back inside the doors of our churches.

2 Comments

Filed under SBC

Good Hands

Yesterday I had to honor to be the guest speaker in chapel at Dallas Baptist University as a guest of Dr. Gary Cook. It had been probably over 20 years since I had set foot on the campus. My first memories of the university date back to Otis Strickland and stories of Decatur Baptist College. My father received his first honorary doctorate from DBU when I was in high school, so the school has always held a special place in the hearts of the Lowrie clan. When I turned up the drive to climb the hill leading to the campus it reminded me of a city of light on a hill. What once was a Spartan campus had become an oasis of beauty and learning.

Under Dr. Cook’s leadership DBU has embraced its future with a bold aggressive vision of taking Christian higher education to new heights. The campus grounds reveal the majestic beauty of God’s hand at work through green grass, flowers, trees, and ponds. To keep up with the growth of the student body the university has added new buildings and housing for students. Currently DBU is building two new buildings that will be great additions to the campus.

I walked away from this experience with two profound impressions. I was deeply impressed by how a humble willing servant of the Lord can make such a big difference over the course of twenty years. I had read the statistics of the amazing growth and vitality of DBU under Dr. Cook’s leadership but to walk the campus with him opened my eyes to a reality stats can never capture. Dr. Cook at the ripe old age of 37 years old took on a God-sized task and became a useful instrument in His hand. He confessed that at times he turned to the Lord in desperate prayer, but he kept turning the Lord and the rest is history. In many ways the story of DBU should impact the students as much as the lessons taught in the classrooms. Life lessons often are much more powerful in changing the hearts and lives of people.

The second impression I walked away with revolves around the students themselves. Even though I had brief passing conversations with a few. The experience of worshipping with them touched me. Too often we measure universities by endowments and stately buildings. Universities are much like churches in that respect. The true significance of a university is not its structure but rather its student body. If our future rests in the hands of the coming generation then we are in good hands. The students of DBU and all our Baptist schools are preparing to be the heroes of tomorrow. Our investment in their futures is one of the greatest investments we can make for the Kingdom of God.

I am discovering there is more and more good news in the BGCT if you are willing to go out and look. Granted we have problems and difficulties, but let’s not overlook the amazing things God is doing right under our noses.

1 Comment

Filed under BGCT

A Singing Lesson

This past weekend our church had the honor of hosting all seven chapters of the “Singing Women of Texas”. These choirs are a music ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Each region chapter has its own director, choir, and mission. I believe once a year they convene for a combined concert and weekend. We hosted over 220 women from all over the state up in the Panhandle of Texas. It was amazing to see how far they were willing to come to sing and worship together.

The choirs were made up of women of all ages. There were young “girls” in their 20’s and there were a large number of “grandmothers”. At one point during the combined concert I closed my eyes and let the harmony, and majesty of the music wash over me as these women lifted their hearts and voices toward heaven. During the concert we experience all kinds of music from classical, to contemporary. The woman sang gospel music and the historic hymns of the faith. The concert expressed the broad scope of the Christian experience.

In many ways these women set the example for how we need to cooperate together as we seek to expand the Kingdom. Each woman lent her voice to the music individually yet her voice blended in with all the other voices in harmony to produce music that reached to the throne room of God. We could learn a lesson from this example. Each of us have a voice and a part to play, but the power of our music comes when we join our voices together in harmony under the direction of one conductor—the Lord Jesus. Too often as Texans we take our desire for individuality and independence to an extreme and we lose the power of working together. Granted each of us has personal responsibility, but we are all interdependent on each other.

Recently I have been teaching through the Lord’s Prayer and it struck me that Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread…forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us”. Jesus taught us to pray in the “plural”. Daily He wanted us to be reminded we are in this together.

I am pretty good at making a “joyful noise” unto the Lord, so may not want to stand too close to me in the choir, but it is an honor to sing with you to our King.

2 Comments

Filed under BGCT, Devotion

Spectator Sport

Reggie Joiner, the founder of “ReThink” ministries made this observation about the struggle churches continue to experience in keeping their youth involved in church after graduation from high school. In the book Unchristian he wrote:

“We have discovered a short window of time during the teenage years when students need to experience something beyond church as a spectator sport. If a young person is not challenged by hands-on personal ministry, their faith will likely be sidetracked and even sabotaged.”

Louie Giglio, founder of Passion, echoed this truth when he wrote of a shift he has observed in the lives of college students across the land.

“It is clear to me that something significant has absolutely shifted this generation. I think it is God’s great kindness stirring our hearts to show His great kindness to the world. With this behind us, the students at Passion aren’t the ones who look good, and this generation doesn’t look like a hands-on, get-involved, do-something generation, God looks good. And God looks like a hands-on, get-involved, do-something God.”

These insights remind me of the words of Jesus when He said:

“Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16 KJV

I too fear we have turned the people of God into spectators rather than servants. Too often they function as critics rather than contributors.

So how do we get the people out of the stands and into the game? I believe we need to think outside the box. Too often ministry within the life of the church consists of squeezing into the squares and circles of committee life and Sunday School. Could it be God has created many of us to function more like triangles, rectangles, and octagons.

I am not suggesting we do away with the circles and squares of traditional ministry. I am simply suggesting we unleash the people of God to be His hands and feet in a wide variety of ways. As a leader I need to learn to listen to the passion of those I lead and help them follow their hearts and spiritual gifts to effectiveness in ministry.

In some ways I lose control, but in the big scheme of things I never really had control anyway. The church will be much more effective when the Holy Spirit calls the plays, and His people get in the game.

9 Comments

Filed under Devotion

Good News from Dallas Baptist University

Over the past couple of years too often the news out of Dallas has been sad and sobering. We need to remember that light drives out the darkness, and that good news lifts the spirit. Not all news today is bad news in Texas Baptist life. In fact this month Dallas Baptist University celebrates twenty years of outstanding leadership by their President Gary Cook. With the help of the Lord Dr. Cook has done an amazing job of turning around a struggling Baptist institution into a thrive university shaping the lives of men and women and shining its light into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and beyond.

To give some perspective to this story of growth and change Blake Killingsworth reported these facts:

For the last 20 years, Cook has led DBU to achieve many goals. This past fall semester, the school enjoyed an enrollment of 5,244 students, an increase of 182% since the fall of 1987 when enrollment stood at 1,859. In addition, graduate enrollment has increased by 546% since the fall of 1988, with a total last fall of 1,673 enrolled in 19 graduate programs and two doctoral programs.

In a time when cutbacks in Baptist life are circulating, DBU is breaking new ground. As I read about the exploits of the university the thing that struck me was the wisdom of Dr. Cook in the early days of his tenure. Instead of turning first to consulting firms or donors, he called on his faculty, staff, student body, and alumni to pray. He established an intercessory prayer ministry as one of his first acts as the new president and claimed the words of Jeremiah as his vision for the future. Jeremiah wrote:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jer 29:11-13 (NIV)

I think there is a huge lesson to be learned here whether you want to apply it to your personal life, local church or the struggles faced by the BGCT. Turning to the Lord in prayer should always be our first resort not our last! When we seek Him with “all” our hearts we change and the world around us changes. A little desperation never hurts on this journey of faith.

In closing, possibly some of the best news coming out of DBU is the news that the leukemia that struck Dr. Cook last year is in remission and he is on the road to recovery. The Lord knew we needed a statesman like Dr. Cook during these exciting days of opportunity and change that lay ahead. Thank you Gary Cook for being a light for us to follow.

4 Comments

Filed under BGCT

A Good Word from Marv!

I suspect new Executive Director Randel Everett of the Baptist General Convention of Texas is still working around the packing boxes in his office and he is already the target of much discussion and blogging. As most readers of this blog are aware, Everett did not have much of a honeymoon with the recent announcement of the Executive Board study committee that the BGCT will have to tighten its belt over the next few months and operate on 90% of the projected budget resources.

In Baptist Standard editor Marv Knox called on a stop to the “feeding frenzy” on Randel Everett. Even though for some there is blood in the water, Knox challenged us as good faithful Baptists to give our new leader time to get his sea legs as he seeks to right the ship. It seems course corrections will need to be made, and a damage control investigation will need to be conducted, but all of these things take time. In a matter of minutes bloggers can solve problem in cyberspace, but the BGCT is a huge family of faith. It is living breathing organism that moves to the beat of nature not of the computer world. I believe Jesus and Paul used agriculture parables and illustrations of about the church and the work of the Kingdom because the natural world of nature reflects the rhythms of the spiritual world.

If we are going to change the crop, we must clear the fields, plant good seed, water, weed, pray for sunshine and rain, and trust the power of God to breathe life into our efforts.

Knox called on our people to lay aside our fixations on “Valley Gate”, the reorganization of the BGCT staff, and our connections to national conventions like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Since Knox brought these topics up, I decided to give my perspective on these matters.

“Valley Gate”: I agree with Knox, we need to give Everett a pass on this issue. He had nothing to do with this dark chapter in our mission efforts. We must learn the expensive lessons “Valleygate” taught us about accountability, communication, trust, and inspections of the fruit, but we cannot live in the past on this issue. The people responsible for these events for the most part are no longer in leadership, so let’s move on.

“BGCT Staff” reorganization: We have kept consultants busy trying to do more with less. I suspect more changes will come, but let’s give Everett a chance to learn the lay of the land before we expect him to chart a new course of our BGCT staff and staffing. Obviously in light of our finances our leadership team will need to be “lean and mean” as the saying goes. Everett will need to surround him with the best leaders the Lord can call to his side. Some have suggested we have had a “brain drain” over the past twenty years in our leadership at the BGCT. I cannot speak to the past, but I pray the Lord will call out the best and finest of our leaders to join Everett and dreaming new dreams about tomorrow. Pray for our staff. Encourage them. The BGCT has a good team of leaders who have been fighting an uphill battle on many fronts. They don’t need critics right now, they need friends and encouragers.

“National Conventions”: I learned my lesson on this topic last year. When I was in the election process for BGCT president I spoke of moving the BGCT closer to the SBC. This idea created shockwaves in some quarters. I misspoke and paid for it dearly. The mission and vision of the BGCT and its leadership needs to move closer to its member churches. In my opinion this move must be toward its BGCT/SBC churches. That being said national convention relationships should have little if anything to do with how our BGCT churches work together. What a church does on a national or even local level is a local church issue. If a church chooses to be part of the mission of the BGCT by its mission giving then they should be full partners regardless of who they also cooperate with. The litmus test for our convention needs to be the passion of the local church to advance the work of the Kingdom by working together with the BGCT on its stated mission and purposes, not where it sends its additional mission dollars. I totally agree with Knox. Those of us who love the BGCT need to lay aside the labels that divide us and we need to find ways to come together.

Final thought: I think Paul has a good word for how to deal with “feeding frenzies” in our relationships. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:14-16 NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

I also learn as a child that getting your mouth washed out with soap has a way of getting you to think before you speak. Does anyone know where we can get a “Texas-sized” bar of Ivory soap?

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hard Choices

Unfortunately Randel Everett will have to reschedule his “honeymoon”. Much like George Bailey in the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” who had to cancel his honeymoon and use his savings to bail out the old Bailey Savings and Loan during a bank rush, Everett has been handed a bucket with a hole in it to put out a fire.

On April 8, 2008 a report from a special study committee of the Executive Board landed on his desk less than two weeks into his assignment. The report drafted by Elizabeth Hanna, and Fred Roach reported significant and disturbing losses to the investment assets of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The report noted that on January 1, 2001 the BGCT had investment assets of $150 million. Over the course of the next seven years these investment funds were reduced to $124 million in spite of a number of good years of returns. In other words, the investment funds of the BGCT dropped by 17.3%. The committee was deeply alarmed by this decline, and warns that this trend must stop immediately.

To make matters worse the Cooperative Program giving of the BGCT churches is running slightly more that 5% below last year’s level, and due to a significant miscalculation of income in the budget planning for this year, Everett and his staff will have to plan to operate the convention’s ministries at 90% of the proposed budget level. This reduction has already necessitated the closing of the calling center, and may led to further lay offs. Let’s just say, Dr. Everett inherited a “God-sized” task when he moved into his office at 33 Washington Ave. in Dallas.

In the report the committee made the following recommendation:

Our financial future is bright if the BGCT makes appropriate adjustments to its processes of

developing, adopting and managing the annual budget. What the BGCT needs more than

anything on the financial front is a commitment to living within the resources God provides.

This will require evaluating all that is currently being done and determining what we should be

doing with available resources. In the short term, all funds available from investment assets in

2008 are being absorbed through the budget and, therefore, it would be unwise to further access

those funds for special purposes.

In recent years, the BGCT has generally been involved in thinning its budget, making less and

less dollars available to support a growing number of ministries. Future effectiveness of the

convention depends on properly determining the appropriate efforts to fund and those that should

be curtailed or limited.

The committee’s recommendations seem to be “common sense”. We need to live within our means. In other words hard choices are going to have to be made. We are going to have to once again begin to choose between the good and the best investments of our CP and investment funds.

I suspect I am not the only one who is tired of watching the BGCT’s ministries go back time and time again into “surgery” to cut away another part of the body. Granted I suspect in any large organization there were areas we have cut that needed to be cut. There is no need to keep alive ministries and missions that have lost their effectiveness or timeliness, but it appears we are getting to the point we may began to cut into the very core of who we are and what we are trying to do.

Common sense tells us to cut back, but I would like to suggest an alternative vision. I would recommend that we be aggressive on two fronts. One, we need to double of efforts at starting new churches of all kinds in Texas. We need new churches to reach the booming population of our state. As we plant these churches giving to the Cooperative Program needs to be part of the DNA or core values of these churches. In the short run starting a new church is costly, but in reality it is an investment in our future. Churches are the one investment we make that pays back immediately to help fund our mission. If these new church are taught to return at least 10% of their gifts to the CP over time these new churches will replenish the funds that we spent and I believe will give us a return on our investment ten fold over time.

My second suggestion would be that we need to open channels of communication with over hundreds of our churches that has stopped giving, and the hundreds of churches that have reduced the giving significantly over the past seven years. We need to find out why they no longer give or why they reduced their giving. After listening to these key leaders I would recommend that we make the necessary changes to our mission and vision that will stimulate these churches to once again start sending their CP gifts to the BGCT. This strategy will be much more difficult that starting new churches but if we had simply a 10-15% return on these efforts and maintained a good connection to the churches over time millions of dollars would return to the ministry channels. Some of the churches we have lost we will probably never regain, but I suspect with some time and attention many of these could return to the fold. Regaining the trust may be difficult but not impossible. Even on our worst day the BGCT is still the greatest missionary force in Texas and is worth of the sacrificial support of its member churches.

In closing, Paul who was a master at raising money for Kingdom causes wrote:

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Cor 9:6-11 (NIV)

I would suspect if this principle applies to a follower of Jesus giving to Kingdom causes it would apply to our family of churches. Granted, cuts will have to be made in the near future but if we starting planting some good seeds who knows what the future may hold.

20 Comments

Filed under BGCT

Prosperity Blues

Recently my wife and I had an interesting conversation over lunch at a local deli. We find ourselves wading through what some would call a “midlife” crisis. From the outside looking in my life appears to be at its pinnacle. Yet from time to time I find myself struggling with the blues. As we discussed the origin of our blues it occurred to me that the roots of our blues could be traced back to our success in life. Today we find ourselves living in a nice four bed-room house in a quiet neighborhood in a small town. We have four healthy daughters who are growing and thriving right before our eyes. We both have good jobs that bring satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment to our day to day lives. We have food on the table, gas in the car, wireless internet, cell-phones, and cable T.V. We have money in the bank, and rarely have to consider our checking account balance when making a purchase. In essence we are living the American dream yet struggle with the blues.

It appears that prosperity comes at a higher price that one might realize. Too often the things we own too often own us, and because our physical needs are met it opens our eyes to issues of the heart that too often we neglect. In 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote an article about his research and revealed his “hierarchy of needs.” Maslow determined from his research that as our basic needs are met, we move to higher needs. His “hierarchy of needs” were as follows: physiological needs (food and water), safety needs (job, house, security, property, and family), love and belonging needs (family, friends, intimacy), esteem needs (self-esteem, achievement, respect of others, respect by others, and confidence, and finally self-actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts). It appears at first glace Maslow was on to something. Too often when we have all we need physically we long for what we do not have. We search for love, esteem and a sense of self-actualization, but we tend to look for it in all the wrong places.

Philip Yancey in his book The Bible Jesus Read has an interesting chapter on the book of Ecclesiastes. One section in this chapter has the fitting title “The Curse of Getting What You Want”. In this chapter Yancey writes:

“It had always seemed odd to me that the modern existentialist philosophy of despair originated in one of the loveliest cities on earth, Paris, during a time of expanding wealth and opportunity. Curiously, I learned existential despair, whether in the Teacher or in Camus, tends to sprout from the soil of excess. Why?

Could it be that “excess” unmasks the soul, and reveals the emptiness of the human heart apart from a vital personal relationship with God? Jesus warned his followers of the dangers of money and excess. He pointed out with the accuracy of a lazar beam the struggle for the heart between God and money. One will master you. You chose your master.

So how does one face down the “prosperity blues?” Where do we turn to find the joy and fulfillment we long for once our stomachs are full, and our checking account balances?

In the Sermon on the Mount, I believe Jesus diagnosed our struggle pretty well when he said:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-21 (NIV)

Our hearts reveal the true treasures of our lives. When we store up and seek treasures on earth we rob ourselves of the joys of heaven. Our affluence too often steals away the true meaning and purposes of our lives. Life does not consist of what we have or do, but rather life finds its meaning and purpose in our relationship with God.

The “blues” fade in the presence of thanksgiving, sacrifice, and service. Sincere worship in spirit and truth sings the “blues” away. I need to confront my “prosperity blues” by laying my crowns at the foot of the cross in the presence of the One who wore a crown of thorns for me. I must come to grips with the fact that I am “spoiled” because my life has become too much about me, and not enough about His Kingdom.

In conclusion, I need to hear afresh the words of Jesus to those who choose to be fully devoted to Him and His Kingdom:

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matt 16:24-26 (NIV)

Let’s face reality Jesus knows without a doubt what He is talking about and we would be wise to follow Him.

1 Comment

Filed under Devotion